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Human rights: British forces 'hooding' interrogation technique banned

The British forces' practice of putting hoods over the heads of prisoners and terror suspects has been declared unlawful and has been banned in a ruling by the High Court.

An Iraqi man, Alaa' Nassif Jassim al-Bazzouni, who was subjected to 'hooding' when he was held prisoner by British troops in 2006, won his case that challenged the Consolidated Guidance to Intelligence Officers and Service Personnel, which the Government published in 2010.

Mr al-Bazzouni's lawyer, Phil Shiner, claimed that the "barbaric" practice was unlawful since it had been banned in 1972 under the Heath Government due to their use in Northern Ireland.

Mr Shiner also represented the family of Baha Mousa who, after spending 36 hours in the custody of the British forces, died as a result of 93 external injuries and from being made to wear a hood.

Sir William Gage made an inquiry into Mr Mousa's death and found that he suffered an "appalling episode of serious gratuitous violence" at the hands of British soldiers and that the Ministry of Defence was guilty of "corporate failure".

Following the completion of the inquiry, the High Court made its judgment. Yesterday (3 October), Sir Anthony May and Mr Justice Keith ruled that the risk to physical and mental health posed by the practice of hooding meant that the guidance should be changed and the practice no longer used.

Mr Shiner said: "This judgment represents the final nail in the coffin of the MoD's desperate and morally corrupt efforts to keep hooding alive as a permissible interrogation technique.

"Sir William Gage's first recommendation in the Baha Mousa inquiry report was that there must be an absolute prohibition on hooding. The MoD's position has been that it is still legally permissible for security reasons. This judgment slams the door shut for ever on hooding involving UK personnel anywhere in the world."

Another linked case brought by the Equalities and Human Rights Commission (EHRC), claimed that the Government's guidance did not prevent British personnel becoming complicit in torture conducted by foreign nations when asking that nation to detain a suspect.

However, the High Court rejected the case stating that "the document is intended to give practical guidance to officers on the ground. It is not a treatise on English criminal law."

The EHRC said: "Our intention at all times was to ensure that British officers in the field weren't exposed to the threat of personal criminal liability and that counter terrorism operations weren't tainted by torture. This case has highlighted these issues and has helped to guarantee that the guidance will be applied correctly in the future."

Related links:
Read more on the story (The Guardian)
Read 'Do human rights apply to convicted criminals?' (FindLaw)
Find local specialist solicitors throughout the UK (FindLaw)